Reply To: Counterfactuals

  • Paul

    March 16, 2023 at 11:58 am

    Interesting discussion!

    I find an association with Iain’s idea that to resolve our dissonance at living in a complex, paradoxical and deeply interconnected universe, we have to be able to embrace ‘either/and’: This strongly resonates for me Sjahari with Marletto’s point that current scientific thinking focusses on what is observable rather than on what is possible, meaning that we inherently limit our understanding of the universe.

    The basic point here is that we have a ‘measurement’ problem in that some phenomena are not currently (or may never be) measurable. It is striking to me that this is not even close to being new idea.

    At the moment I’m tending to formulate the RH as ‘inclusive’ in that it recognises that there is almost certainly an over-arching paradigm that can explain all phenomena (whether or not this can or could be articulated), whereas the LH is ‘exclusive’ in that it only models what is measurable (at present). In this formulation, the problem comes when the LH does not leave ‘space’ in the model/ map for what it cannot measure. In other words, it presumes a model that excludes all other possibilities and at this moment the Emissary becomes the Master.

    And the biggest problem here is that all the things that are really important to us as humans are hard or even impossible to measure.

    In practice the existence of ‘anomalous events’ are formally expressed as a ‘of low probability’ but when you look at real world discourse you immediately notice an expression of definite exclusion. Why? I suspect the nature of the discourse switches suddenly from open discussion to rhetoric rather than discussion when areas of disagreement are reached.

    Does that come close to what you were driving at Sjahari? I hope it makes sense.

    Weirdly, I think things like this are best illustrated sideways rather than head on. The example that always comes to mind from the film, “Contact” and I think it nicely illustrates the problem. Here’s the scene in question.

    Conversation between Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) and Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey):

    Palmer Joss: You’re Dr. Arroway, the one who’s been looking for signals from outer space.

    Ellie Arroway: Guilty as charged.

    Palmer Joss: [smiling] And you believe in little green men, too?

    Ellie Arroway: [smiling back] Only intellectually. There’s no proof yet.

    Palmer Joss: [serious] So, you have faith.

    Ellie Arroway: Faith?

    Palmer Joss: Yeah. You have faith that there’s life out there, somewhere.

    Ellie Arroway: No, I have evidence.

    Palmer Joss: What evidence?

    Ellie Arroway: [gesturing towards the telescope] That.

    Palmer Joss: [looking at the telescope] A telescope?

    Ellie Arroway: [nodding] Yeah. It’s a tool we use to gather data.

    Palmer Joss: And your faith is in the data?

    Ellie Arroway: [smiling] My faith is in the universe, in its vastness and its mysteries.

    Palmer Joss: [nodding] And you think you can uncover those mysteries with data?

    Ellie Arroway: [shrugging] We try.

    Palmer Joss: [serious] But there are some things science can’t answer, aren’t there?

    Ellie Arroway: [curious] Like what?

    Palmer Joss: [leaning in] Like why we’re here. What the meaning of life is.

    Ellie Arroway: [smiling] Ah, the big questions.

    Palmer Joss: [smiling back] Yeah. The questions that science can’t answer.

    Ellie Arroway: [leaning in] But maybe it can.

    Palmer Joss: [curious] How?

    Ellie Arroway: [leaning in further] By finding evidence of life on other planets. Maybe that would give us a sense of our place in the universe.

    Palmer Joss: [nodding] And what if we don’t find any evidence?

    Ellie Arroway: [shrugging] Then we’ll keep looking. That’s what science does. It keeps looking until it finds an answer.

    Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?

    Ellie Arroway: What?

    Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?

    Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.

    Palmer Joss: Prove it.